Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/372

This page has been validated.
358
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

examination proves the same facts. In Philadelphia, a committee of physicians of the Medical Society examined, with the ophthalmoscope, the eyes of four thousand children in the public schools, and their report exhibits similar conclusions. In San Francisco, the Department Superintendent of the Public Schools asserts that, of the pupils who enter the public schools at the eighth grade, and work their way up to the high-school, fully forty per cent are afflicted with one or another form of myopia. Dr. Agnew shows, in a recent report on the progress of near-sightedness in this country, that "our school-rooms are the factors most directly influential in the gradual and increasing development of a race of spectacle-using people." Dr. Derby, Dr. Seguin, and many other scientific philanthropic gentlemen, have uttered similar opinions. Professor Calhoun, of the Atlanta Medical College, says, on this subject, that in the interior of the eye there is an elastic muscle, called the ciliary muscle (circumscribing that aperture through which light is conveyed to the retina), by which the sight is graduated to different distances. In a normal eye, the contractions and expansions of this muscle are not noticed by us; but in a near-sighted or over-sighted eye these changes are violent and some-times painful; and, eventually, the action of this muscle is spasmodic and so weakened that the sight is permanently injured. Near-sightedness, he remarks, seldom begins until the sixth year, when children commence using the eye on school-books. There are records of the examinations of the eyes of forty-five thousand school-children, of all ages and grades, white and colored, and it has been proved that near-sightedness increases, from class to class, until, in the highest grades, it has actually been developed in as many as sixty or seventy per cent of all the scholars. I saw, lately, in the "Baltimore Sun," that a studious little girl in a public school in that city was struck with blindness at her desk, just after finishing her reading-lesson.

The causes to which this deterioration of eye-sight has been attributed are alleged to be cross-lights from opposite windows, light shining directly on the face, insufficient light, small types, and to the position of the desk, forcing the scholar to bend over and bring the eyes too close to the book or writing-paper, etc.

But, were all these defects remedied, the integrity of the eye would not be restored nor its deterioration prevented. The chief causes of the evil would still remain. These are the colors of the paper and ink. White paper and black ink are ruining the eye-sight of all reading nations. The "rays of the sun," says Lord Bacon, "are reflected by a white body, and are absorbed by a black one." No one dissents from this opinion; but, despite these indications of nature and of philosophy, we print our books and write our letters in direct opposition to the suggestions of optical science.

When we read a book printed in the existing mode, we do not see the letters, which, being black, are non-reflective. The shapes reach